Boston High School: Hunter Oppedisano

Recap: No. 7 Dennis-Yarmouth 27, Nauset 15

November, 24, 2011

SOUTH YARMOUTH, Mass. -- Late in the fourth quarter of what was turning into a big win for his Dennis-Yarmouth squad, quarterback Matt Montalto dove for a first down in the Nauset red zone, and the sub 6-footer engaged in a short shoving match with the Warriors' UConn-bound linebacker, 240-pound senior Brendan Battles.

A few plays later, Dylan Hodsdon put the finishing touches on the scoring drive, and the game was in hand. Montalto was then asked post-game about the "Game Over" message written on his eye black strips, and he merely offered a sheepish grin as he motioned towards the scoreboard.

It's that kind of spunk that's embodied this team -- undersized, yet tough and unafraid to confront -- and has led the Dolphins to this, a 27-15 win over their Thanksgiving rivals that wrapped up a perfect 11-0 regular season, their second straight outright Atlantic Coast League title, and their second straight Division 2A playoff berth (and second ever).

This also marked the first time in the rivalry that the league title was directly on the line. But in a snap, Montalto was already moving on to Tuesday night's playoff game with the No. 18 Walpole Rebels.

"It was definitely a little bit different of a feeling than it usually is on Thanksgiving," Montalto said. "It feels great to win, awesome to win, I always love winning on Thanksgiving. But like coach [Paul Funk] said, our season starts on Tuesday now. It's do or die."

Montalto carried the day with another Montalto-like performance, carrying the ball 11 times for 101 yards and throwing for another 50 through the air, including 42 and a score to his favorite target Damion Johnson.

D-Y (11-0, 6-0) found success early through the air on familiar patterns, with Johnson sitting on 10 and 15-yard comeback routes against zone coverage. They marched right down the field to open the game, capping a 10-play, 64-yard drive with a 13-yard goal line fade from Montalto to Johnson at the back pylon for a 7-0 lead less than five minutes into the game.

The Warriors responded soundly on the ensuing drive, marching all the way to the Dolphins' 11 with rushes from brothers Derrick (22 carries, 86 yards, TD) and Nathan Holmes (18 carries, 81 yards, TD). But on fourth down, Mike Messersmith's field goal attempt fell way short and was scooped up by Johnson at the goal line; he juked a half-dozen defenders in between the hashes for a 60-yard return that set up first and 10 at the Warriors' 42.

It took just five plays to capitalize, with Montalto setting up a one-yard Joe Furness plunge with a nifty scamper around the right side. On a designed bootleg left, Montalto ran into some pressure from Battles and reversed direction, turning a two-yard loss into a 34-yard run that was ruled down at the one as he attempted to dive over the pylon. Terrio's kick gave the Dolphins a 14-0 lead with just nine minutes player in the game.

Johnson also added a 50-yard kickoff return and 37 rushing yards, giving him over 200 all-purpose yards for the day.

The Dolphins scored twice more in the second half, and put the clamps down defensively behind linebacker Hunter Oppedisano (two sacks) and nose guard Tommy Kennedy. Until the Warriors' final scoring drive with under five minutes in the game, the Warriors had been held to just 26 yards of offense in the second half.

The Drive: The backbreaker for this one came in the third quarter, when the Dolphins put together an 11-play six-minute, 99-yard scoring drive after a beautiful Nauset punt pinned them at their own half-yard line.

Furness capped the drive with an 18-yard scamper around the left, but it was a series of jet sweeps that opened things up on the drive. First, Hodsdon came around the right from his own 14 and carved up 18 yards. Two plays later, Funk sent Rufus Hamilton in motion to the left, and he sprinted up the left sideline for a 28-yard gain. Two plays after that, they went to the left side again, this time with Quan Lovett, to set up another first down.

"We knew we could get the perimeter," Funk said. "We knew we were faster than they were, and we knew we could get the perimeter. That was the game plan for the second half."

Oppedisano finishes 'em off: If the Dolphins' 99-yard drive swung momentum, then Oppedisano drove the stake into the ground on the ensuing Nauset possession. Five plays into the drive, on first and 10 from the Dolphins' 39, Derrick Holmes took a direct snap for a sweep left, but Oppedisano slipped through the B-gap and took him down for a six-yard loss. The next play, Oppedisano sacked Nathan Holmes for a 10-yard loss, setting up third and 26 from the Nauset 45 when play resumed for the fourth quarter.

Two consecutive false starts then gave Nauset a surreal third and 36 from its own 35, and they punted a play later.

"They just looked away from me, and I took advantage of it, and caught them blindside," Oppedisano said bluntly.

Said Funk, "Hunter's a really good player. He works really hard, he's done some really good things, and he's tough. He's physical. They brought their game in the second half."

Singled out: Keith Kenyon's rebuilding job at Nauset included the installation of the Single-Wing offense, a scheme popular in the first half of the 20th century that has since fallen out of favor as the passing game has evolved. Elements and principles of the scheme still exist in offenses such as the ones run by Urban Meyer and Rich Rodriguez; but Kenyon's scheme is the formation at its roots.

The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Battles lined up as an off-set fullback behind one of the guards, brought the play from the sideline into the huddle, and called the cadence. Both Holmes brothers lined up in various places in the backfield, ready for a direct snap or a handoff from Battles or their brother, sometimes accompanied by a flanker.

With tight splits, unbalanced lines, and an intimidating lead blocker in Battles -- a state wrestling champion who sometimes left his feet to take down the first player up the gap -- it's a tough offense to stop once it gets going. But a month earlier, the Dolphins shut down Marshfield by deploying a Buddy Ryan-esque 50 Eagle front against the Rams' run-heavy Wing-T offense, and that appeared to help them out this morning.

"Definitely, [but] you've just got to be physical up front," Oppedisano said. "You've got to take on the block by Battles and you've got to work hard."

Funk thought it came down to getting to the point of attack.

"That's what we talked about at halftime -- we've got to get off the ball," Funk said. "And we absolutely did in the second half."

Scouting the Rebels: D-Y quarterbacks coach Nick Montalto, older brother of Matt, was spotted in the stands at the Walpole-Natick game two weeks ago. Asked what his brother told him about Walpole, Matt offered up a Belichickian response.

"What he told me is they're tough," Matt said. "Playoffs are always going to be tough, though. We're looking forward to it."

Turkey Day Honors: For Dennis-Yarmouth, Hodsdon (72 rushing yards) took home Offensive Player of the Game honors, while Oppedisano took home the Defensive Player of the Game award. Nauset's Nathan and Derrick Holmes took the team's offensive and defensive awards, respectively.

NAU (7-4, 5-1) 0 - 7 - 0 - 8 --- 15
D-Y (11-0, 6-0) 14 - 0 - 7 - 6 --- 27

First Quarter
D - Damion Johnson 13 pass from Matt Montalto (John Terrio kick) 6:23
D - Joe Furness 1 run (Terrio kick) 1:08

Second Quarter
N - Derrick Holmes 1 run (Mike Messersmith kick) 3:36

Third Quarter
D - Furness 18 run (Terrio kick) 2:35

Fourth Quarter
D - Dylan Hodsdon 5 run (kick failed) 5:41
N - Nathan Holmes 11 run (D. Holmes run) 0:04

No. 15 D-Y playing unusual role of favorite

August, 29, 2011
SOUTH YARMOUTH, Mass. -- All of last week, the Dennis-Yarmouth Dolphins gathered with No. 1 Everett for a week's worth of practices at a campground in Brewster, tucked into the elbow of Cape Cod and bordered on the north by the Atlantic Ocean.

As usual when these two programs butt heads, it's a stroll down memory lane for Funk. In 2001, he left the Crimson Tide coaching staff to take over a program past the verge of collapse. D-Y wasn't just a program in disarray, with a mere six wins to its credit in the 1990's; it was a program so bad, it was relegated to exclusively junior varsity status, with the school even considering dropping the program altogether.

They say if you're not the lead dog, the view never changes. Safe to say a decade after nearly disbanding, the Dolphins are affirmatively in the front of the pack in not just the pecking order of the Cape's programs, but all of Division 2A.

Four seasons ago, it was Nick Montalto kick-starting the program, quarterbacking the Dolphins to a 10-1 campaign and a share of the Atlantic Coast League title (they missed out on the playoffs by virtue of a head-to-head matchup with Marshfield). Last season, after a few .500 seasons, it was Montalto's younger brother, Matt, amassing 37 touchdowns and nearly 2,500 yards of offense as the Dolphins claimed the ACL outright and punched their first postseason berth in school history.

All the intangibles are back again in 2011 to make them a favorite in the ACL again. But putting them over the top -- putting them in Super Bowl contention, in some circles -- is Matt Montalto, the spirited gun-slinger and baseball centerfielder praised as much for his decision-making as his toughness. And that's even after taking into his relative lack of size (Montalto stands just 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds).

"He's just a gamer, great kid, really good leader," Funk said. "He has put his heart and soul into the program. He's almost at 245 on hang clean, 265 on the bench press, he's like a big, strong kid. Even though he's not tall for kid at his position, he can run a 4.6.

"And on top of that, he's the most accurate passer I've ever seen and ever been around. You put those things together with the toughness and leadership qualities, and he's a kid that we're very fortunate to have."

Last fall, the Dolphins were most successful with Funk's read-option attack when Montalto was spreading the ball around to a handful of slot receivers on underneath routes, or hitting running backs Dylan Hodsdon and Joe Furness out of the backfield. Funk noted an improved arm strength over the offseason, adding that he'd put Montalto "up with any of them" in a deep quarterbacking class that includes Everett's Jonathan DiBiaso, Barnstable's D.J. Crook, North Andover's Brandon Walsh, Catholic Memorial's A.J. Doyle, Swampscott's Michael Walsh and Billerica golden boy Nick LaSpada.

That should bode well for arguably the Dolphins' most dangerous target. At 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds, senior Damion Johnson is a mismatch and their best deep-ball threat, demonstrating quality body control on jump-balls and exhibiting elite burners in the open field that has touched the 4.5-4.4 range. He's probably in for a bigger season after racking up 728 receiving yards and nine total touchdowns last fall.

At free safety, Johnson was also the ACL's Defenisve Player of the Year, jumping routes to the tune of eight interceptions.

"He's good as a receiver and good on both sides of the ball," Funk said. "At safety, he comes up hard on run. I think he creates problems for teams."

Undoubtedly, the target is on the Dolphins' back, a position at once uncomfortable and enviable.

"That’s what happens when you start wininng games," Funk said. "That's what we wanted to do with this program. When we started from scratch, to where we are now, we still haven't gotten to where we need to be, there's stuff that didn't get finished last year, there's a lot of work be done to get to there. But this is what we hoped as a coaching staff would happen when we started this thing 10 years ago."


Coach: Paul Funk (11th season, 58-39-1)
Last Year: 10-2 (Lost to Duxbury in Division 2A playoffs)
Key Returnees: Matt Montalto, Sr. QB/DB (1,300 passing yards, 22 TD, 4 INT; 121 carries, 1,123 yards, 15 TD); Tommy Kennedy, Sr. OL/LB; Hunter Oppedisano, Sr. OL/DL; Dylan Hodsdon, Sr. RB/DB (11 TD receptions); Damion Johnson, Sr. WR/DB (704 receiving yards, 9 total TD; 8 INT); Arthur Hairston, Sr. OL/DL; Shane Lappen, Sr. OL/DL; Rufus Hamilton, Sr. RB/DB (6 rushing TD); Barry Dempsey, Sr. OL/DL; Spencer McCaffery, Jr. WR/DB; Joe Furness, Sr. FB/LB (11 rushing TD).
Strengths: Team speed, returning skill players.
Weaknesses: Depth at linebackers.
Outlook: The Dolphins climbed to unprecedented heights in 2010, and many of the integral pieces of the puzzle are back for one more go-around, making them one of several favorites in Division 2A. The most integral of them all, Montalto, could have an even bigger senior campaign after totaling 37 scores as a junior. Montalto made a name for himself across the state last year with his elusive 4.6-40 speed and accuracy in the short passing game, and all the familiar targets are back to shoot for an even bigger senior campaign. "Our offense isn’t one to pass the ball 35 times," Funk said. "We're very balanced, very evenly spread out, and Matt's the perfect guy for that in this offense." Without the greatest arm strength in the world, Montalto excelled in spreading the ball around underneath to guys like Hodsdon and McCaffery, and keeping the defense honest with handoffs up the middle to Furness, but Funk noted an improvement in arm strength this offseason. That should bode well for Johnson, who figures to emerge as one of the Cape's all-around most dangerous targets after a strong junior campaign; as should the offensive line, which loses mammoth 310-pound tackled Nate Crary but returns three speedy starters. Defensively, there are concerns of depth in the front seven with the graduation of linebackers Victor Andrade and T.J. Camel, but the secondary should buy the pass rush some time, with Montalto and Johnson manning the safety positions.